Texas barbecue, the classic version of which is found primarily in Central Texas and distinguished by its use of beef brisket and its indirect smoking method, is superior to all other regional varieties of barbecue. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, the state boasts tremendous variety of barbecue styles, from the cabrito pits of South Texas to the sweet tangy ribs of East Texas. Over the years, Texas Monthly has written about them all. In our first barbecue story, “The World’s Best Barbecue is in Taylor, Texas. Or is it Lockhart?” Griffin Smith Jr. wrote that, “at first blush, the East Texas chopped pork sandwich with hot sauce has little in common with the slab of Central Texas beef. . . . The emphasis in Central Texas is overwhelmingly on the meat itself—sauce, if available at all, is usually just a side dip.”

Central Texas barbecue owes its origins to the meat markets and grocery stores opened in the 1800s by German and Czech immigrants, who brought with them a style of smoking meat over wood with a simple preparation of salt and pepper. “Whatever fresh meat they couldn’t sell, they would smoke and sell as ‘barbecue,’” Katy Vine wrote in her 2012 story “Of Meat and Men.” “As demand grew, the markets evolved into barbecue joints, though the style of service didn’t change much. The meat was still sliced in front of the customer in line and served on butcher paper.”

The most famous of these meat markets became part of a canon—Louie Mueller’s in Taylor, Kreuz Market and Black’s in Lockhart, and City Market in Luling. The late 1990s brought on a subtle change to this lineup. After Kreuz Market’s owner, Edgar “Smitty” Schmidt died, the siblings who inherited the business parted ways. As a result, Kreuz Market moved to another part of town and the original building became Smitty’s. It made the “Best of the Best” barbecue in Texas Monthly’s 2003 round-up (the first in a series supervised by food editor Patricia Sharpe).

The front-runners had become so familiar that when the Texas Monthly staff hit the ground in 2008, for another “Top 50” review of barbecue joints, they were surprised by a completely unknown newcomer: Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington, “a small restaurant open only on Saturdays and only from eight in the morning until whenever the meat runs out, usually around noon.” A year later, in Austin, a little trailer called Franklin BBQ opened, causing such a fever that by the time it opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the spring of 2011, people slept on the ground overnight for a spot in line.

A shift was underway, highlighted by Vine’s 2012 story: “Whereas the legendary spots of yore had been primarily rural, now the widespread hunger for sublimely smoked meat, coupled with the boon of instantaneous buzz and feedback, made it possible for urban upstarts to enter the scene.”

Food & Drink|
November 12, 2013

Bowl of Dread

I was aghast when chili was first anointed our official state dish. More than 35 years later, my feelings about this greasy mush haven't changed.

Eat My Words|
May 31, 2013

“The Kings of BBQ: Barbecue Kuwait” to Air on KLRU

On Thursday, June 6, KLRU will air a television special entitled The Kings of BBQ: Barbecue Kuwait.The documentary details the experience of five BBQ pitmasters (Myron Mixon, Johnny Trigg, Jaime Geer, Nicole Davenport, and George Stone) and their trip to a military base in Kuwait to create a Southern-style

Food & Drink|
May 13, 2013

Welcome to the World Wide Web of Barbecue

Things have changed dramatically since we published our last list of the state’s top fifty barbecue joints, in 2008. Not only has there been an unprecedented flourishing of new joints (sixteen of the places on this year’s list were not open five years ago, including two of the top four), and

Food & Drink|
March 13, 2013

Our Guide to Central Texas Barbecue

You can’t go home and tell your friends that you came to Central Texas and never ate any barbecue. It would be like going to SXSW and not listening to any music. But there are so many briskets and so little time! How do you sort it all out? No

Food & Drink|
February 25, 2013

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Ire

Two grease fires destroyed Louie Mueller Barbecue's 1959 brick pit in Taylor this past weekend—just as John Mueller's new trailer opened in Austin.

January 21, 2013

Bringing Brisket to New York the Right Way

Daniel Delaney, a Brooklyn-based blogger who professes a deep and profound respect for Texas barbecue, bought a 200-pound smoker and a truckload's worth of Texas post oak to start Brisket Lab in his home state. 

Food & Drink|
January 21, 2013

Reinventing Barbecue

Where there's smoke, there's non-traditional barbecue. Jim Shahin writes about Asian styles in New York City, "pulled squash" in Arizona, and cauliflower, artichokes, and quail in Texas.

Magazine Latest